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The Buffalo Bills' season-ticket base has climbed more than 15 percent. Two of this season's eight home games already have sold out. And three more are close to selling out.

Oddly enough, though, the home season opener against the New York Jets Sunday night hadn't sold out as of late Monday, with close to 1,000 seats still remaining.

"The single largest factor, by far, is the fact that it's a night game," Bills Treasurer Jeffrey C. Littmann said Monday.

The regionalization of the Bills franchise -- luring more and more fans from outlying areas, especially Rochester and points east -- doesn't help when the kickoff is pushed back to 8:20 p.m., as it is this Sunday.

"People are coming from a long distance, and you're just not getting them for night games," Littmann said.

Bills officials are proud that the season-ticket base has risen, following a tumultuous year and a half when fans couldn't be sure whether the team even would be here after the 1998 season.

This year's season-ticket figure will be "north of 37,000," Littmann said Monday, compared with between 31,000 and 32,000 last season.

"It's going to be in excess of a 15 percent increase," he said.

Littmann cited several factors for the increase: a discount for season-ticket holders; no price increase from last season; the remodeling of Ralph Wilson Stadium; getting past the lease crisis; the regionalizing of the franchise; and the reduced stadium capacity, down from just over 80,000 to 75,339.

The increase in season tickets, combined with the reduced stadium capacity, makes it much easier to sell out a home game so it can be televised in the Buffalo market. Compared with last year, the Bills have almost 6,000 more season-ticket holders in a stadium with almost 5,000 fewer seats.

That means there are at least 10,000 fewer seats to sell on a game-by-game basis.

Two games already have sold out: the Oct. 10 date with Pittsburgh and the Nov. 14 game against Miami. Three others are close to being sellouts: this Sunday's game against the Jets, the Sept. 26 game with Philadelphia and the Oct. 17 game against Oakland.

"I think we've got a real good chance of selling out those five games," Littmann said.

Sales for the Jets game apparently have fallen victim to other factors, besides the 8:20 p.m. kickoff time:

The game falls on the holiest night on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur.

Games against the New York teams often draw a sizable crowd of local college students from the New York City area. But those students weren't here during the initial selling period in August.

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